What do you do when you have a thought or idea pop into your mind that you want to remember? Before my adventure into the realm of productivity began I was the type of person that would make a “mental note of it”, letting it then float around in my head until it would dissolved into a thousand disparate pieces, or simply obliterated altogether. That thought, that ground-breaking idea was never to be heard from again.
In order to overcome this ongoing disaster I have employed a number of tactics. It all boils down to grabbing hold of three different types of “things”. They are:
In all cases, the most important thing to remember is the need for immediacy. As soon as the document presents itself, an idea is spawned, or an action determined, it must immediately be captured. Doing so will capture not only the item, but any additional context that has created the need to capture it – the “why.” The “why” of capture is just as important, if not more important, than the “what.” Understanding why an item needs to be captured will help to formulate the context that that item should be referred to later and help you decide if the item is worth holding on to for the long term.
Capturing documentation amounts to any piece of content that enters my world and that I deem necessary or valuable to retain. This includes articles I discover online that I might want to refer back to or read later, as well as emails, bills, and receipts to name a few. There are many tools that help to capture such content for later referencing. My preferred tool is Evernote due to its incredible flexibility and ease of access. Web content can easily be captured with the Web Clipper, emails can be forwarded to it and other bits of paper can be captured with the built-in document camera, or captured with other apps such as Genius Scan or Scanner Pro and uploaded directly to Evernote automatically.
Ideas are probably the most important of all things that I capture. As eluded to earlier, my mind doesn’t have a problem generating ideas, often when I least expect it. Because of this it is critical that I am able to capture those ideas instantly. I can then go back to them later and dive into them further.
When an idea is sparked I first organise my thoughts internally into something that flows coherently. The next thing I do is grab my phone and launch Evernote, tap the button for a new text note and as quickly as possible I transcribe my idea. Lately I have been trying the “speech to text” button on the iPhone (right next to the space bar), but the results are mixed, especially for anything more than one sentence at a time, but it’s handy to be able to get the main content down and then just fix up a few words here and there.
These ideas are typically then left in my Evernote inbox. During my weekly review I review, tag and process them. As long as they are captured safely I can forget about them and review all my ideas at any time.
All the information in the world can exist at your fingertips, but it’s what you do that truly matters. Actions, tasks and reminders are synonymous to me – they all represent something that needs to be done at some point. Just like ideas, I am often struck with thoughts about things I need to do. This can happen at unexpected times, or when reviewing the aforementioned content and ideas (or even other actions). To capture these actions and then review and refine them later I use Asana.
When something I need to do is realised I grab the device nearest to me (either my computer, or mobile device) and, using Asana I create a new task. Depending on the amount of time available there and then I will either put the task in the appropriate project(s) and complete other details, or leave the task in my personal queue with basic details, allowing me to review when I have more time and make any adjustments then.
Through all these different types of things that I capture the constant is the immediacy of their capture to a safe environment, a place that I can trust and can come back to as and when I like. When you’re looking for the right way to capture your content, ideas and actions, irrespective of what tools you choose, make sure that immediate availability is paramount. It is the most important thing to have with you so that you can build your trusted system, because, really, can your memory be trusted? Mine certainly can’t – just ask Mrs Cloud Productivity